Celebrity Divorce - Brendan Fraser Fights to Lower his Support Obligations

March 11, 2013

Celebrity_Divorce.jpgBrendan Fraser and Afton Smith married in 1998 and divorced nine years later in 2007. At the time of their divorce, Fraser was ordered to pay Smith approximately $900,000 per year for spousal support and child support for their three children. Now, Fraser claims that he can no longer make the required payments, which, if made on a monthly basis, total $75,000 per month. Fraser has filed a motion in family court seeking a post-judgment modification of child and spousal support.

In San Diego, after a divorce is finalized, family courts generally have the ability to change support orders if facts and circumstances have materially changed since the first orders were made. If the moving party can prove to the court a "material change of circumstances" he or she may be granted a post-judgment modification of support. One of the most common changes of circumstance relied upon by courts is a change in income for one or both parties. If the spouse ordered to pay support has experienced a significant decrease in earnings, the court may lower his or her support obligation.

However, it is important to note that San Diego family courts only have the ability to modify the support order back to the date a motion was filed. If one spouse gets fired and does not file a motion to modify support for a few months, he or she may owe a significant amount of back child and/or spousal support. Regardless of a spouse's current income, his or her obligation to pay support will not change until a motion is filed with the court. Even in cases where a judge determines that a material change of circumstances exists and that support should be modified going forward, he or she is not required by law to make the order retroactive to the date the motion was filed.

Learn commonly used divorce law terms

Fraser alleges that he has had an increasingly difficult time finding acting jobs since the third film in the "Mummy" franchise wrapped in 2008. However, according to IMDB, Fraser has worked on 17 projects since then. Smith claims that Fraser is lying to the court about his true income and hiding his assets. Smith has good reason to be suspicious of his earnings claims. At the time of their divorce, Fraser claimed that he would make $0 from future acting work. In fact he went on to star in movies grossing up to $2 billion worldwide. When confronted with this information, Fraser claimed deals like this were not "set in stone" at the time of his divorce. It is crucial for a spouse to present an accurate depiction of his or her income to the court in a family law case. If Fraser is in fact misleading the court and his ex-wife, he may face harsh penalties and sanctions.

Please contact us if you are contemplating legal separation, thinking of learning about divorce, or have questions regarding division of assets in divorce. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorce, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights.

Can the Court Force Me to Sell My House in Del Mar?

March 7, 2013

Division_Del_Mar_Divorce.jpgFor many Del Mar families, real estate is their most valuable asset. Because the prices of the average family home are so high, many families must invest significant funds into real estate just to live in the area.
However, upon divorce, all community property must be divided equally by the court.
If the parties have no other assets as valuable as the family home, it must be sold and the proceeds divided.

Read more about Divorce jurisdiction in Del Mar

Pre-Judgment: Prior to the final resolution of a divorce case, the court will generally avoid ordering the sale of community or separate assets. However, under Family Code §2108, at any time during the divorce proceeding, the court has the authority to order the liquidation of a community asset if necessary to avoid unreasonable market or investment risks. Divorce lawyers know that, in making this determination, the court will consider the nature, scope and extent of the community estate. California courts have held that judges may not order the sale of a community asset unless necessary to prevent the loss of that or another community asset. In some cases, the financial strain of divorce may cause the family residence to be lost to foreclosure. If equity remains in the home, it may be prudent to petition the court to order the sale of the residence so that it is not lost to foreclosure.

At the onset of a divorce proceeding, automatic temporary restraining orders take effect. These restraining orders are commonly referred to as "ATROS". The ATROS prevent the parties from altering the status quo of the marriage during the dissolution proceeding. For Del Mar divorce attorneys, this means that if one party maintains health insurance for the family, he or she cannot cancel that insurance plan because a divorce has been initiated. The ATROS also restrain parties from selling assets before they are divided by the court. Thus, a party may not unilaterally sell a home during divorce without a court order as discussed above.

At Trial: At the end of the case, the court is not as restricted in its ability to order the sale of the home. If the parties only significant asset is the family home and an award of that asset cannot be offset by another, the only way to divide the community estate is to sell the home. Therefore, during a Del Mar divorce, it is well within the court's authority to order the sale of a residence and to divide the proceeds equally between the parties.

Please contact us if you are thinking of meeting with a divorce lawyer. Whether you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation, consulting with a knowledgeable attorney is of paramount importance. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Divorce - Kristen Stewart's Affair with Rupert Sanders Destroys his Marriage

March 6, 2013

In July 2012, Us Weekly released photos of Twilight star, Kristen Stewart, and Snow White and the Huntsman director, Rupert Sanders', cheating scandal. Stewart and Sanders were photographed kissing in a parked car on the side of a secluded road. At the time, Stewart was involved in a serious relationship with teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson, and Sanders was married to British model Liberty Ross. Although Stewart and Pattinson reconciled in September, Ross has recently filed for divorce from her husband of nine years.


Ross and Sanders reportedly gave their marriage another shot after news of the cheating scandal broke and even attended marriage counseling. However, Ross was unable to move past her husband's public infidelity. The former couple has two children, Skyla, age 7, and Tennyson, age 5. In her Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Ross requested joint custody of the children in addition to spousal support and attorney fees. Sanders filed a Response to the Petition also requesting joint custody but not spousal support. Sanders wants each party to bear the cost of his or her own attorney fees.

Learn more about the divorce process in Del Mar

Ross retained celebrity divorce attorney, Laura Wasser, to represent her in her divorce. Wasser is most famous for her representation of celebrities such as Heidi Klum, Ryan Reynolds, Kim Kardashian, and Britney Spears. According to Los Angeles Times, Wasser's services will cost Ross $750 per hour. With rates that high, it's no surprise that she is asking the court to order Sanders to cover Wasser's fees. As Del Mar divorce attorneys are well aware, California courts have the authority to order one spouse to contribute toward the attorney fees and costs incurred by the other spouse. However, since California is a "no-fault" state, Sanders' infidelity will be irrelevant to all of the court's rulings.

Family Code §3557 was enacted to ensure that both spouses have access to legal representation to preserve their rights. This code section applies to limited circumstances including actions in which a supported spouse requests enforcement of an existing order for spousal support. In determining whether an award of attorney fees and costs is appropriate under Family Code §3557, the court must consider the following two factors:

(1) whether there is a disparity in access to funds to retain counsel, and;

(2) whether one party is able to pay for legal representation for both parties.

Thus, if one party has significantly more resources than the other and is able to pay for both parties' legal representation, a court may order him or her to do so in limited cases. Because Ross is not seeking enforcement of an existing support order, she will likely not be award attorney fees under Family Code §3557.

Read on about Del Mar divorce procedure here.

A request for attorney fees may be made during the pendency of a divorce pursuant to Family Code §2030. Family Code §2030 has similar requirements as §3557; however, allows for a request to be made for purposes other than to enforce existing orders. Thus, Ross is likely requesting an award for attorney fees pursuant to this code section.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

How Valentine's Day Can Affect Your Divorce

February 11, 2013

San_Diego_Waterfront.jpgValentine's Day is a romantic time in Del Mar and throughout San Diego County. The romance of this holiday can sometimes stir up old feelings between divorcing spouses. It is not uncommon for spouses going through a Del Mar divorce to send each other gifts on Valentine's Day or even to spend the day together. However, it is important to consider the legal ramifications of these acts especially with regard to the date of separation. On the other hand, newly separated spouses may be spending Valentine's Day with a new significant other for the first time in a while. Before substantial gifts are given to a new love interest or money is spent on a lavish trip, it is important to also consider how these acts may impact your divorce proceeding in Del Mar.

The date of separation is an important consideration in many divorces. The marital estate is the property divided upon divorce. Property can only be accumulated in the martial estate between the date of marriage and the date of separation. Thus, once spouses decide to end their marriage, they stop accumulating any community assets. In order for a separation to occur, the spouses must physically separate (live apart) with the simultaneous intent never to resume the marital relationship. As Del Mar divorce attorneys understand, only one spouse is necessary to establish the requisite intent to end the marriage.

Read more about date of separation from Del Mar divorce lawyer Nancy Bickford

Depending on the assets in the martial estate, a dispute regarding date of separation can have enormous financial consequences. In order to determine which spouse is correct regarding the date of separation, the court will consider the conduct of the parties. One of the factors considered by the court is whether the spouses gave each other gifts or spent holidays together. If Husband and his attorney allege the parties separated January 1, 2010, the same year he earned a $100,000 bonus at work, that bonus would be his separate property. However, if Wife can show that Husband sent her flowers and a romantic card on Valentine's Day in 2011, her divorce lawyer can use this as evidence that they in fact separated much later and she will be entitled to half of Husband's 2010 bonus.

Under the Family Code, which governs the divorce process in Del Mar, spouses are not permitted to gift community property without the written consent of the other spouse. While both spouses are entitled to manage and control community funds, gifting community property is not considered a function of a spouses right to "manage and control" community funds. If a separated spouse intends to purchase any lavish gifts for a new significant other, he or she should be careful only to use separate property funds for this purchase.

In Del Mar, the divorce process can be complex, and selecting a qualified and knowledgeable divorce attorney is exceptionally important. Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 for more information about the consultation process.

The voice of Charlie Brown charged with stalking, death threats

Peter Robbins, voice of the beloved Peanuts character Charlie Brown, was arrested on Sunday, January 20th, on charges of making criminal threats and stalking. Robbins was the voice of Charlie Brown in both "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "It's a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" television specials.

ABCNews.com reported that, while the details of the arrest warrant were not immediately available, the charges related to Robbins stalking his ex-girlfriend and making criminal threats against a plastic surgeon.

nbcsandiego.com reported that it all started with a breast enhancement performed on Robbins' former girlfriend, Shawna Kern, by La Jolla plastic surgeon Lori Saltz. Apparently Robbins and Kern were a couple at the time the procedure was performed, but broke up sometime thereafter. After the couple split, Robbins allegedly demanded his money back from Saltz, stalking her and threatening her life if she did not refund the money.

Read more about domestic violence and how an attorney can help

Robbins, a resident of Oceanside, California was arrested while re-entering the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. According to ABC News, he is being held on $550,000 bail, and a preliminary hearing is set for March 22, 2013. ABCNews.com further reports that, if convicted, Robbins faces up to 9 years in prison.

According to nbcsandiego.com, Saltz filed a restraining order against Robbins. It is unknown whether Kern has similarly filed a restraining order against Robbins.

We have previously blogged about how the "girlfriend, boyfriend" relationship qualifies a restraining order to be filed in Family Court. We have also previously blogged about the basics of family law restraining orders. A unique fact of this story is the mention of violence by Robbins against the dog he shared with Kern. nbcsandiego.com reports: "[t]he prosecutor said Robbins also admitted to attacking Kern and their dog."

In cases such as these, Family Code section 6320 authorizes the Court to include a pet on a restraining order in California. The California family code section provides protections for the party, and at the discretion of the court, the code also provides protections to other family members, household members, and even pets on the authority of good cause.

Do pets really need this type of protection? It would appear they do. While California did not initially extend this type of protection to pets, the extension accounts for the fact that over 60% of American households have pets and a majority of women who are in shelters report that their batterer also abused the pets in the household.

This is according to Jennifer Scarlett, DVM and co-president of the San Francisco SPCA as reported by sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com. In fact, according to Scarlett, 25% to 40% of women say that they stay in abusive relationships because they are afraid to leave their pet in the household. California is not the only state to extend this protection to pets. Twenty-two states plus the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico have similar legislation.

Don't settle for less when determining your rights. The divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford, APC are well versed in Family Law in San Diego, with the firm headed by Nancy J. Bickford, Esq.. Ms. Bickford is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS), as well as an actively licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA), making her the only attorney representing clients in divorce in San Diego with these distinctions. Call today for more information about the consultation process. (858) 793-8884


New Divorce Method - Divorce Hotel

January 28, 2013

There many paths to ending a marriage in San Diego - including settlement, trial, uncontested divorce and simplified divorce. Many couples struggle for months and even years to work out the complex issues involved in divorce such as property division, support, and custody and visitation. Dutch entrepreneur, Jim Halfens, created a new method of divorce used in the Netherlands called the "Divorce Hotel". Using this method, a couple checks into the Divorce Hotel on a Friday, and with the help of family law attorneys and mediators, checks out on Sunday with divorce papers in hand. Instead of the typical hourly rate, the couple pays a flat fee for their stay in the Divorce Hotel. San_Diego_Divorce_Hotel.jpg

After experiencing great success in the Netherlands, Halfens is attempting to bring his novel concept to the United States, which is known for its extraordinary divorce rate. Halfens is not only negotiating with hotels and local family law attorneys, but also with television production companies. Halfens is attempting to start a new reality show which follows the couples through their stay at the Divorce Hotel. Many prominent divorce lawyers have expressed serious doubts about the practicality of Halfens' concept. These attorneys are concerned that most divorces are too complex and/or acrimonious to be completed in a single weekend. U.S. divorce attorneys do agree that the concept may be successful in cases where the divorcing couple remains on friendly terms and has a relatively straightforward marital estate to divide.

Read more about uncontested divorce here

Many obstacles can prevent the Divorce Hotel method from succeeding. A divorce proceeding can be dragged out because spouses often hide money, undervalue assets, and perpetrate fraud. Discovering these inconsistencies and seeking out the truth regarding the marital estate takes time, money, and a lot of effort by experienced family law attorneys. This work can skyrocket the cost of a divorce by increasing costs, fees, and may even require hiring an expensive expert. In order to combat this reality, Halfens screens the couples that apply to stay at the Divorce Hotel. His team tries to weed out its applicants and only admit those who are willing to mediate and work together to reach a solution. Couples who bicker or barely speak to each other are rejected.

Divorce can be quite complicated, especially in San Diego. Contact us today if you are contemplating a separation, curious about the divorce process, or simply want to schedule a consultation at our office located in Carmel Valley, near Del Mar. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego who represents clients experiencing divorce, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 from all areas of San Diego county, including Encinitas, Escondido, Vista, and beyond.

Tiger Woods Reconciling with Elin Nordegren?

January 22, 2013

If you have as much money as Tiger Woods, maybe it can buy you love. After a massive cheating scandal broke in late 2009, Elin Nordegren filed for divorce from her successful golf star husband, Tiger Woods. In a record-breaking settlement, Nordegren walked away from her marriage with $750 million. In return for her cash pay-out, Nordegren agreed to never publicly speak out about Woods' affairs with over twenty different women. Despite their incredibly public divorce, just over two years after the couple reached a global settlement, Woods' again proposed marriage to Nordegren.


Apparently Woods is not satisfied with his not-so-new found single lifestyle. His friends say he is incredibly unhappy without his family and has not managed to hold a steady girlfriend since Nordegren. Although Woods has dated several other models since his divorce, he hasn't recovered from his split with Nordegren. On or around Christmas 2012, Woods got down on one knee, presented her with a ring, and "re-proposed" to his former wife. Nordegren is considering Woods' proposal, but only on the condition that he agree to include a $350 million anti-cheating clause in their prenuptial agreement. Reportedly, Woods has no problem agreeing to Nordegren's condition despite the fact that his accountants think he is crazy. Woods is ready to sign on the dotted line, set a wedding date, and return back to his former married life.

Read more about San Diego divorce attorneys

California is a "no fault" state. This means that in a San Diego divorce proceeding infidelity is irrelevant when dividing assets and debts, setting spousal and/or child support, and determining custody and visitation rights of the parties. Despite this default rule, parties have the ability to agree to abide by different rules. As in the Woods-Nordegren reconciliation, parties can agree to put an "anti-cheating" provision in a premarital agreement. Under such a provision, a spouse would be punished if he or she was unfaithful during marriage. If no such provision existed, neither party could be punished by the courts for infidelity. There are strict rules that a divorce attorney must follow when drafting any agreement, especially a premarital agreement, in order to have it enforceable by the courts. It is important to contact an experienced family law attorney to draft any contracts between spouses.

If you are considering divorce in San Diego, a legal separation from your spouse, or have questions regarding scheduling a consultation, contact us here. Nancy J. Bickford is the only divorce lawyer in San Diego representing clients who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS), and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call us today 858-793-8884 for more information about our divorce attorneys in San Diego.

Hollywood Divorce Spotlight - Skinnygirl Frankel's Child Custody and Support Requests

As we have previously blogged, Bethenny Frankel, former star of The Real Housewives of New York, and founder of Skinnygirl Cocktails, recently filed for divorce from husband, Jason Hoppy. The parties have a daughter, age 2.

Reportedly, the parties' separated on December 23, 2012 and Frankel filed for divorce just shortly thereafter (LA Times) It appears from Frankel's Petition that she is requesting primary physical custody of the parties' daughter and child support payable by Hoppy, in addition to life insurance, exclusive occupancy of their home and medical, dental, vision and orthodontic care for her and the child. Sources estimate Frankel is worth at least $25 million. This begs the question: Is child support appropriate in cases where the custodial parent is an extraordinarily higher earner?

Under Family Code section 4053, "[I]n implementing the statewide uniform child support guideline, the courts shall adhere to the following principles:

(a) A parent's first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent's circumstances and station in life.
(b) Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children.
(c) The guideline takes into account each parent's actual income and level of responsibility for the children.

As such, regardless of Frankel's ability to support the parties' daughter, the court is tasked with ensuring Hoppy shares in that responsibility as well, pursuant to the statewide child support guideline. The guideline must account for both parents' actual income. In this case, CelebrityNetWorth.com reports that Hoppy has a net worth of $5 million himself, the majority of which he made as a high end New York real estate agent. His income must be considered in determining whether a support order is appropriate in this case.

Find more resources for divorce in San Diego

The statewide child support guideline is presumptively correct. If, under the statewide child support guideline, Hoppy is obligated to contribute to the support of Bryn, might he be able to somehow "rebut" the presumption? Could Hoppy perhaps show the court that he too has an extraordinarily high income such that presumed support would exceed the needs of the child, and in doing so successfully rebut the presumption?

Family Code section 4057 provides: "(b) [t]he [presumed child support award i.e. the guideline amount] may be rebutted by admissible evidence showing that...(3) The parent being ordered to pay child support has an extraordinarily high income and the amount determined under the formula would exceed the needs of the child." To date, no case has defined "extraordinarily high income" for purposes of this section. Rather, it appears to be left to the discretion of the judge to determine what level of income may qualify. A judge may consider the local economic conditions in his or her analysis. But, because under Family Code section 4053 as mentioned above, "children should share in the standard of living of both parents" (Fam. C. section 4053(f)), consider that the needs of a child are relative to the parents' income, even if that income is extraordinarily high.

It should be noted that before a judge can deviate from guideline child support, he or she must first calculate the guideline amount based, generally, on both parents' incomes and their respective time share with the child. Only after that is done can a court go on to make the necessary findings as to why a different amount should be ordered. (Fam. C. section 4056(a)).

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 today.

January is Peak Season for Divorces

January 14, 2013

January is commonly referred to as a "peak season" for divorces in Del Mar and throughout San Diego County. Although many parties file for divorce in January, their timing may be chosen for a variety of different reasons. Filing for divorce during the holiday season can cause tension within the family and significant hardship if children are involved. In an effort to avoid ruining the holidays for the children or the family, some parties put off filing until January.


On the other hand, the holiday season can be a very stressful time for families causing the final straw in a marriage to break thus prompting a party to file for divorce. Making a decision to file for divorce is best done with a clear head. The holidays can be a time of chaos and tension and therefore may parties decide to "ride out" the holiday season and then re-evaluate whether they still wish to pursue divorce. In addition to the emotional and psychological reasons for filing for divorce in January, many practical explanations also exist.

As we have previously blogged, the date of separation can have a dramatic impact on the division of property. The timing of filing a divorce petition can be used as the date of separation for the parties depending on the particular facts of the case. If one spouse generally earns a significant year-end bonus or commission, it may be wise to delay filing a petition until after the first of the next year. Once spouses separate, all of their respective earnings and accumulations will remain their separate property. This is quite different than the default rule which states that all earnings and accumulations during marriage are considered community property and divided evenly. Although it is impossible to say how a year-end bonus will certainly be divided at the end of the dissolution process, waiting until after the payment is received to file for divorce may save significant litigation on the issue.

Read more about divorce and finance

The end of the calendar year generates a plethora of year-end financial statements. Depending on the finances in each case, the parties can receive year-end paystubs, W-2 statements, student loan statements, statements from any investment accounts, statements from any retirement accounts, etc. Gathering all of this updated financial information can help the divorce process move smoothly. Parties have the opportunity to gather bank statements, tax records, draw up budgets, request mortgage statements and credit card balances before filing. These statements will be utilized to prepare Income and Expense Declarations and Schedules of Assets and Debts. Separating at the beginning of a calendar year can represent a new beginning and clean break for the parties.

Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Please contact us if you are considering legal separation, divorce, or need advice regarding child custody matters.. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Call 858-793-8884 for a consultation appointment today.

Update - Ashton Kutcher Finally Files for Divorce

January 8, 2013

As we have previously blogged, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore separated nearly a year ago. However, neither party had filed for divorce, until now. Early on the parties claimed to be working out all of the details of their marital settlement before involving the court system in their divorce. Despite their year-long attempt at an amicable resolution, Kutcher filed for divorce shortly before Christmas. Media outlets speculate that Kutcher's new girlfriend, Mila Kunis, may have pressured him to file. This is based on the theory that Kutcher intended to give Moore time to heal from the couple's traumatic split and that Kunis could no longer handle letting Moore still have that much control. Besides the emotional implications involved, there are a few legal ramifications of filing for divorce that might have appealed to Kutcher and prompted him to finally take this step.

In California there is a mandatory six-month waiting period between when a spouse files for divorce and when the court has the ability to terminate his or her marital status. This means that if Kutcher intends to re-marry within the next year or so, filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage six months prior to that date would be necessary. Even if Kutcher and Moore agreed upon a final settlement of their estate and submitted their agreement to the court, they would still remain legally married until the six month waiting period had passed.

Learn more about filing for divorce in San Diego

Filing for divorce also has many financial implications. The timing of Kutcher's petition, shortly before Christmas, may not have been an attempt to hurt Moore around the holidays but instead, may have been done in the interest of financial security. Legally married couples can file "married filing separately". If Kutcher files "married filing separately" he will only report his own income, exemptions, deductions, and credits. Normally, there are significant disadvantages to filing "married filing separately", however it may be prudent to file separately if you are concerned about the potential liability for tax, penalties, and interest of your spouse.

Legally married couples can also file "married filing jointly". In this case, both spouses file one return together and report both of their income, exemptions, deductions and credits. This may be difficult in divorce proceedings where a party is non-cooperative. It is crucial to speak with a tax preparer in making this decision. By filing his divorce petition in December, Kutcher gave himself the option to use whatever method of filing works most to his advantage.

If you are contemplating divorce, please contact us. The Law Offices of Nancy J Bickford are also well versed in child custody, spousal support or alimony in San Diego, and property division. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Is her Divorce Putting Frankel's Skinnygirl Fortune in Jeopardy?

January 4, 2013

Another Housewife is getting divorced. Bethenny Frankel, creator of the Skinnygirl franchise, is divorcing her Husband Jason Hoppy after only two years of marriage. For months Frankel has been fighting rumors that the couple is splitting but she has finally confirmed that a divorce is on the horizon. Frankel released the following statement regarding the divorce, "It brings me great sadness to say that Jason and I are separating. This was an extremely difficult decision that as a woman and a mother, I have to accept as the best choice for our family."


In 2008, Frankel agreed to join the cast of Bravo's The Real Housewives of New York. At that time, only four short years ago, Frankel had a "mere" $8,000 in her bank account. To Frankel, The Real Housewives was an opportunity for her to build her own brand and advertise her Skinnygirl line of alcoholic beverages. It seems as if her plan worked because currently Skinnygirl is the number one fastest growing spirit in the United States. In addition, Frankel is now also a best selling author with her own skin, clothing and health products. Further, Frankel received a $40,000 check for each episode of her reality show. Considering the size and diversification of Frankel's fortune, the first question surrounding her divorce is whether she will have to split everything with her husband. Because the Frankel and Hoppy signed an enforceable premarital agreement, all of Frankel's empire should be safe from division.

Learn more about the divorce process in San Diego

A premarital agreement is an important tool that can be used to protect assets of ambitious entrepreneurs. As a default rule, under California community property laws, any earnings or accumulations of a spouse during marriage is community property. Thus, one of the main functions of a premarital agreement is to alter that default rule and order that any earnings or accumulations of a spouse during marriage remain that spouse's separate property.

A premarital agreement can be especially helpful for a spouse with big aspirations but without a significant fortune entering into the marriage. California community property laws protect all of a spouse's property that he or she had before marriage. Upon agreement or by their actions, parties can convert separate property to community property. However, as a general rule, a spouse's assets before marriage will be remain theirs in full post-separation. On the other hand, pursuant to the default community property rules, if a spouse creates a large franchise during marriage, this franchise is subject to equal division between the parties.

Please don't hesitate to contact us in San Diego if you would like to inquire regarding the divorce process in San Diego, have questions regarding child custody and visitation, or would simply like to set up a consultation appointment with Ms. Bickford. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884.

Kanye West Deposed in Kardashian Divorce

December 27, 2012

The divorce proceedings between reality star Kim Kardashian and athlete Kris Humphries have by far exceed the length of the couple's 72-day marriage. Recently, Kardashian's new boyfriend, rapper Kanye West, was deposed by Kris Humphries' lawyers. During a deposition, the deponent must answer a series of questions while under oath. This means that any lie told during a deposition may constitute perjury. Humphries' deposition of West may have been an attempt to invalidate his premarital agreement. Many speculate that the premarital agreement contained an infidelity clause and that Humphries is attempting to show Kardashian violated it by starting a relationship with West before the date of separation.

In response, Kardashian's lawyers argue that Humphries' postponed arguments to invalidate the straightforward premarital agreement is simply a delay tactic to draw out the divorce proceeding. Despite Humphries' alleged attempts to extend his litigation with Kardashian, the judge assigned to the case has set a trial date. The former couple will appear on February 15, 2013 and argue their case before the court. As long as the trial date is not pushed further back by Humphries' legal team, Kim Kardashian should finally get a resolution to her second marriage.


Common Family Law Terms Learn more about family law

Depositions are a common form of discovery in family law proceedings. Discovery is the process in which the parties can formally ask each other for documents and information in order to gather all relevant facts in the case. Although expensive, depositions can provide attorneys an opportunity to ask the parties and/or other witnesses for the information needed to proceed to trial or to negotiate settlement. Other forms of discovery such as special interrogatories are available to ask parties questions under oath. However, special interrogatories can be less effective than deposing a party because the lawyer is only permitted to ask follow-up questions after receiving a response. This question and answer process can continue for months because each party is entitled to 30 days to respond to interrogatories.

If discovery is not complete, and both parties do not have all the relevant information in a case, it is difficult for a court to rule or for the parties to reach a settlement. If the discovery process is drawn out such in the Kardashian-Humphries case, the entire dissolution process can take years to complete. Thus, it is important to retain a lawyer familiar with the discovery process and deadlines. Once a trial date is set by the court, such as in the Kardashian-Humphries case, discovery is subject to a cut-off date. After this date, no further discovery may be propounded.

Divorce can be a frightening and a daunting process. If you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding spousal support or child custody, please don't hesitate to contact us. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights, call 858-793-8884.

Technology Fosters Cooperation in Modern Divorces

December 17, 2012

We have previously blogged about different ways technology can be used to gain an advantage or gather evidence in a dissolution proceeding. However, ex-spouses are now learning how to use the advances in technology to foster cooperation and harmony post-separation. Many divorcing couples would prefer to sever the ties between them completely after their divorce is final. This goal is unattainable for ex-spouses who will continue to share custody of minor children for years after separation. The new trend called "joint custody - at a distance" encourages splitting couples to communicate electronically rather than during "in person" exchanges in order to reduce the emotional tension during a "drop off" or "pick up".
Many parents have found that they fight and argue less in front of their children if they are able to express their emotions through other outlets. E-mail communication, online calendars and a number of other online resources are all available to conflicting parties who share children. By sharing an online calendar parents can easily coordinate a child-sharing schedule. All of the child's activities and plans are readily available to view and change without any need for in-person or telephonic communication between the parents.

Our Family Wizard is a common solution for parents in conflict. A judge may order parties to use Our Family Wizard, a program which tracks all communication, expenses, and even sends notices to the parties regarding their obligations. Because the communication between parents can be supervised by the judge and attorneys involved in the case, the parties are incentivized to speak civilly to each other. This form of communication can take away the aggravation and emotional side of child-sharing and ease the tension and stress for the children involved. The program can be purchased for approximately $100 per year.

Another form of technology frequently appearing in custody orders is Skype. Skype is a free program that allows two or more people to have an online video conversation. In cases where both parties cannot easily see a child frequently, the court may order "Skype visitation". During a Skype visit, a parent can have a video conversation with the child. Skype also permits conversations to be recorded and can ensure that the visiting parent is getting enough video time with the child. Additionally, a parent may be ordered to purchase a cell phone for the child in order to avoid any telephonic communication between the parties. This way, if a parent wishes to speak to his or her child during the child's scheduled time with the other parent, he or she can reach the child directly.

can be an intimidating and confusing process. If you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody or support, please don't hesitate to contact us. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights, call 858-793-8884.

Ariel Winter's Emotional Abuse

November 27, 2012

Domestic violence and child abuse are not limited to physical violence, but also include emotional abuse. Modern Family actress, Ariel Winter, has recently been named a victim in an emotional abuse scandal with her mother, Chrisoula Workman. Although Ariel's claims of physical violence were unsubstantiated by the Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS"), DCFS did find evidence of emotional abuse. As a result of the DCFS findings, on November 20th, a judge ordered Ariel to remain in the custody of her adult sister, Shanelle Gray.

The DCFS report also contained recommendations for the 14-year-old Ariel's future care. According to DCFS, it is in Ariel's best interest for Ms. Gray to be awarded permanent guardianship. Workman's attorney, Anita Gumm, vehemently opposed the idea that Gray be awarded temporary or permanent guardianship of Ariel. Gumm argued that 34-year-old Gray is too young to act as guardian despite being old enough to have a family of her own. Due to Ariel's well-known role on the popular television show, Modern Family, Gumm also suggested that Gray was seeking guardianship over her for individual gain. Apparently the judge disagreed with Gumm's representation of Gray's motives since he awarded her temporary guardianship. A hearing on permanent guardianship has not been set.

In a case such as the Ariel Winter's case, the adult who becomes the guardian of an abused child does not necessarily need to be a family member. Any family member, friend, or other adult who knows the child may ask the court to become his or her guardian. Because Gray is Ariel's sister, the two girls likely share a close relationship that will make Ariel's transition away from her mother much easier.

As Ariel's guardian, Gray now has a number of important responsibilities. Guardians are responsible for the health care and education of the minor child. This means that, as guardian, Gray has the ability to make medical decisions for Ariel. Additionally, Gray may choose where Ariel attends school. This may be a complicated decision considering that Ariel is an actress on a hit television show. Although guardians have the right to make decisions for the minor child, the child's parents still remain responsible for financially supporting that child. If the guardian wishes to further sever ties between the child and his or her parents, the guardian may choose to provide financial support without help from the parents.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Legalizing Polygamy?

November 22, 2012

1215912_paper_chain_in_the_dark.jpgAs we have previously blogged, it is illegal in San Diego for any married person to marry anyone other than his or her current spouse. Polygamy describes a marriage between more than two people. TLC brought the spotlight to this mysterious form of marriage with its reality show Sister Wives. Sister Wives is a show about the Brown family in which one man is married to four different women. After the show aired, rumors spread that the authorities were investigating the Browns for polygamy. The thought of criminal prosecution for their lifestyle forced the Browns out of the State of Utah, where they were living, to Nevada where they believed they would be more easily accepted.

Although Utah authorities investigated the Browns, many people are speaking out against laws prohibiting polygamy. Polygamy is often linked to the Mormon faith, thus those who are speaking out against its prohibition cite laws protecting religious freedom. Those condemning anti-polygamy laws argue that the laws inhibit religious freedom in the same way that laws prohibiting contraception did.

Legally, polygamists argue that anti-polygamy laws violate the U.S. Constitution's Free Exercise Clause. The Free Exercise Clause prohibits the states from imposing restrictions on someone on the basis of the person's religious beliefs. The state may only impose a restriction if that restriction is necessary to achieve a compelling state interest. However, a law of general applicability, which only incidentally burdens religious practices, will not be subject to invalidation. Any state which prohibits polygamy defends this law by arguing that a compelling interest (protection of women and children) exists and that anti-polygamy laws are necessary to achieve that compelling interest.

Not all those speaking out support the movement to overturn anti-polygamy laws. In fact, some academics argue that polygamy is dangerous and harmful to all participants. They allege that in polygamist communities women are forced to marry early, rivalry sparks as new wives are added to the family, children suffer with limited resources to be shared in extremely large families and men are ostracized as they rival other young males. The supporters of the anti-polygamy laws are afraid that this type of legal movement would result in religious communities that are permitted to make their own sets of laws to live by.

The strength of the movement to overturn anti-polygamist laws has yet to be seen. With all of the recent changes regarding same-sex marriage throughout the United States, polygamy could be the new frontier for legal marriage evolution.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.